Companies Hiring, Executive Feature

View from the Top: Samsara CEO Reveals What It Takes to Win

It’s been a busy past 12 months for Sanjit Biswas. As CEO of Samsara, Biswas has overseen rapid hiring — double the headcount in a year — and a recent round of growth funding to the tune of $50 million. Plus, the enterprise IoT systems company says it has been adding over 1,700 new customers every quarter.

Given the rapid growth, Biswas has been laser-focused on the health of the three-year-old company’s culture. “One of my biggest responsibilities has been to make sure we’re preserving and scaling our culture,” says Biswas. And according to employees on Glassdoor, his efforts are paying off. “Huge opportunity, career growth, and professional development,” says one employee. “High quota attainment and culture of overachievement, and high earning potential.” The employee says the culture is, “fast-paced, grinding, collaborative, celebrate wins.”

Great benefits and perks plus transparent leadership have earned Samsara a 4.7 out of 5 company rating and a 100% approval rating for Biswas, earning him the #1 spot on the U.S. SMB Top CEOs list this year.

In Sanskrit, “Samsara” is the eternal cycle of life and rebirth. Glassdoor caught up with Biswas in between his non-stop cycles of meetings, interviews and the casual lunches with team members to talk about his Top CEOs win, the importance of maintaining company culture and hiring the best.

Glassdoor: Congratulations on being named the #1 Top CEO in the U.S. amongst small- and medium-sized businesses.

Sanjit Biswas: Thanks, it’s a huge honor! We’ve been in a hyper-growth mode for the past year, which is both fun and also challenging, so it’s great to hear everyone feels like I’ve done a good job maintaining our company’s direction and culture.

Glassdoor: As a rapidly growing startup, how do you align the company’s recruiting strategy and culture with ever-changing business needs? After all, it can be very hard to stay the course while in hyper-growth mode.

Sanjit Biswas: Our company has a lot of different moving parts, so we’ve found it’s helpful to build a detailed annual operating plan that both defines our high-level growth goals, but also shows how each department has to scale to get there.

For us the process of planning is almost as important as the plan itself. The plan helps us set budgets and headcount targets, but the process is how we figure out where we need to make “step changes” that will change the long-term trajectory of our business over the next several years.

Glassdoor: So when you’re hiring, what attributes do you look for in executives and leaders at Samsara?

Sanjit Biswas: Great leaders come from a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences, so rather than look for people from our industry alone, we look for a few general characteristics:

  • Are they used to diving into the details with their teams? We are big fans of “leading from the front” in every department, and knowing what you’re talking about is important for problem-solving with both customers and team members.
  • Do they think long-term and see projects through to impact? Our company runs on positive feedback loops, and at the executive scale, sometimes that means understanding what happens over many years.
  • Would I want to work for this person? This is a great overall gut check for making sure someone is low ego and that they seem like a good person overall.

Glassdoor: How do you mine for these characteristics? What questions do you ask to get to the meat of it?

Sanjit Biswas: I usually like to find something specific on someone’s resume from a recent job, like a customer win or a product they built, and ask them to dive into the details of how it happened. The top performers tend to have an incredible level of depth when recounting the details, and I almost always learn something new in the process. It’s also a great way to understand where their careers are headed and what they’d like to do next.

Glassdoor: What roles does Glassdoor play in Samsara’s recruiting? Or how do you use the platform to keep your finger on the pulse of both company culture and candidate experience?

Sanjit Biswas: Our company culture is one of our biggest assets, so Glassdoor helps candidates understand what life is really like at Samsara, and it also gives us a way to make sure there’s a feedback loop if something isn’t working as well as it should.

As we grow, we’ll be recruiting in new offices, for new projects and for new roles, so it’s helpful to have a way to always be listening for ways to improve.

Glassdoor: Retaining talent is just as important as recruiting it, but turnover for start-ups can be par for the course. What retention strategies do you employ?

Sanjit Biswas: Top talent has an exponentially large impact on our company, since they are not only the most productive people, but they also set the culture and pace for the rest of the organization.

Compensation is important of course, but talented people also want to feel like they made a significant contribution and helped the team. We believe in going out of our way to engage with our top performers through open access to information, frequent Q&A sessions and even sharing our board slides within the company.

Glassdoor: When you look back over your past year as CEO, can you share how you have navigated a leadership challenge?

Sanjit Biswas: It’s been a busy year, and our company has more than doubled in headcount in the past 12 months, so one of my biggest responsibilities has been to make sure we’re preserving and scaling our culture.

There was a point last year where my schedule was booked solid with meetings and interviews, and I found myself starting to feel disconnected from the day-to-day happenings in the company. I now make it a priority to keep my schedule free and hang out at the lunch table or to simply be available to chat — the informal interactions are in many ways more important for the company over time than the big formal meetings.

Glassdoor: Now for a few fun ones: What is one book that you think everyone should read?

Sanjit Biswas: If you’re up for some non-fiction, I recommend checking out either Sapiens by Yuval Harari or The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley (couldn’t pick just one!). It’s interesting to zoom way out and realize how fortunate we are to live in modern times.

Glassdoor: What is your go-to productivity hack?

Sanjit Biswas: This might sound counterintuitive, but having a toddler at home has probably been my biggest productivity hack. Having fewer hours in the day to work and an alarm clock without a snooze button (even on the weekends!) has made me a lot more deliberate and focused with the time I do have to work.

Glassdoor: What is your #1 job search tip? How should job seekers be thinking about their hunt, given today’s competitive job market?

Sanjit Biswas: When it comes to tech companies, my suggestion is to visit the websites of the top tier VCs and click through their portfolio companies, and apply to a few that seem especially interesting.

High-growth tech companies are a great place to accelerate career growth — you’ll get to see decisions up close, and the short feedback loops are some of the best ways to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Glassdoor: Lastly, what energizes you?

Sanjit Biswas: I love the feeling of building something new and ambitious with a team. It’s exhausting and energizing at the same time!

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